Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more.

Hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.



#429: A Seer of Trees

June 4, 2019 at 9:00AM • 1 hour 32 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a catastrophic off-by-one-week error; Roderick's June is very triggering to your hosts; sometimes, it's nice to be exposed to stuff you didn't expect, but…; at a certain point in life, you mostly just see trees of inconvenience and risk; this leads to a long (and surprisingly pretty good) meditation on FOMO, acceptance, and not pretending to be a person you never actually were; Dan helps Merlin unpack a scene near his workplace; Merlin gets in the weeds about Roger Deakins, Torquay, and two different Richards Burton; then, there's a brief side trip into the reboot of Nick Fury; and, finally the boys answer listener questions about taking notes in college and feeling resistance to completing tasks.


#428: Prepare for Draculas

May 28, 2019 at 2:30PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

DISCUSSED: Nobody got enough sleep last night, but they're gonna power through anyhow; your hosts fawn over the amazing Chernobyl miniseries; various hardware mute button options are discussed; Merlin can't draw but is very excited about making pictures on an iPad; Dan is looking forward to seeing more Olyphant; your hosts address a listener's question about their "everyday carry," but honestly mostly end up talking about bags; also, you really need a bag in a bag in a bag; and, finally Merlin has an admittedly privileged aspiration involving keys.


#427: C. Thomas Hobbled

May 21, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 38 minutes

DISCUSSED: nasty, brutish, and short sleep; watching TV with a game controller; Dan has to deal with suite concatenation; your hosts crave the expertise of a craftsman; Merlin realizes he and his lady friend see very different forests (spoiler: hers is way better); popcorn ceiling comes in cans; your hosts contrast their views on kipple, sentimentality, and need; Dan struggles to turn off his buttons, and Merlin loves his iPad's Paste button; provisional, anecdotal praise for AT&T's Call Protect service; there's a distinction between long sleep and good sleep; Dan has to stab a prestige TV doppelgänger, and Merlin learns about Night Company; Merlin has recommendations for a Mac automation app, a new David Sparks Field Guide, and a handy new IoT dingus; speculation that smart home adoption truly won't tip until the interactions get less dorky; mobile charging options for travel are debated; everybody needs a Dad Hat; and, finally, with only three days of school left, Dan receives a very concerning email.


#426: New Wave Night

May 14, 2019 at 2:15PM • 1 hour 28 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan has a new setup, and Merlin randomly recommends a kids' book; your hosts remember too much; Dan realizes he took the wrong shop class, and Merlin realizes why Generation X was (and remains) mostly useless; Dan walks us through his new setup, and the boys talk about the joys of VNC; Merlin is excited about the new "Guard" functionality of the Amazon voice dingus; Ferris Bueller's Day Off is still very good; what is the sound of one Koan falling?; your hosts discuss an article proposing why everything should take 20 minutes; Merlin dives deep on his own longstanding use of this heuristic; this leads to some classic #productivity talk; there's some instamatic camera nostalgia; Dan has a new project, and you should maybe contact him; Once AGAIN!; the glory of Spirited Away is discussed; Dan recommends a good TV show for date night; and, finally, Dan and Merlin admit they'd probably watch basically anything about Watchmen.


#425: Off the Cushion

May 7, 2019 at 4:30PM • 1 hour 30 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan explains what the photos he sends mean; Merlin encourages Dan to air a beef, and Dan kindly assents; Oh, boy, Windows! My old nemesis…Windows!; the Mac's interoperability glory days were amazing; it really sucks to watch a computer start up and start up and start up; ports confuse Merlin, who is now officially an old; Dan and Merlin talk about a few things they enjoyed watching on YouTube; Merlin has a recommendation for downloading internet videos (purely for educational reasons); Merlin also recommends a really good podcast episode about "data-driven parenting"; then, Merlin kinda pops off a little; hey, listen: you can rarely have benefits without risks (and kinda vice-versa); Dan's watching Deadwood again, and Merlin gets kinda excitable again and does lots of quotes for some reason; and, finally, Merlin has a super-tip about improving your results in Apple Health.


#424: A Roach Riding a Rat

April 30, 2019 at 1:30PM • 1 hour 13 minutes

DISCUSSED: the restorative tonic of a good night's sleep; a return to sleep as video game; it's okay to tweet your hosts about hoagies and Publix; concerns about butt cancer; Dan recommends a Netflix series; Merlin endorses Overcast clips; the difficulty of balancing user requests with reality; Merlin commends the deliberate simplicity of his daughter's spork; Merlin recommends a podcast; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener's email about the therapeutic benefits of "controlling a small area."


#423: It Only Hurts for a Minute

April 23, 2019 at 1:15PM • 1 hour 28 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan and Merlin get hungry, but they've had it with all the bread; the trough food is so costly; no one is sweating Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; Marvel-ish movies are discussed, including the new one with Lady Sansa; Merlin is very concerned about aphasias; Dan introduces us to Forbidden Snacks and endorses his new shoe appliance; shoe appliances are then discussed; Dan hasn't had to use his sword…yet; people sure love them some pencils; there was some weather, so the seder got all fakakte; the finer points of Judaism and sundry Hebraica are clarified; Dan got scrolls-on-tape from a sympathetic cantor; Buster Scruggs is recommended; the boys receive a quick surprise visit from the great Tom Waits; and, finally, your hosts talk about a terrific YouTube video about what we can all learn from our worst trainwrecks.


#422: Magic Rub

April 16, 2019 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 10 minutes

DISCUSSED: Dan has just started a new pen; there's some pen, pencil, and eraser talk; Dan has an important anecdote about utilizing eraser-based people skills; Dan's iMac is working fine, but he's concerned about the poofs coming out of the balloon blower; Dan saw Venom and has some thoughts; Merlin commends a comic and a podcast and an app launcher; the evolution of computer interaction has rewired our brains; why do they have to make the print so small?; Merlin has songs in his head; and, finally, Merlin apologizes to Nick Fury.


#421: Black Dress Cowboy Boots

April 9, 2019 at 3:45PM • 1 hour 12 minutes

DISCUSSED: What we talk about when we talk about optimism; the power of "Act as Though"; on edibles; a YouTube recommendation, then more YouTube recommendations; how even do we tell YouTube what we never want to see again? HOW?!; the difficulty of sensible algorithms; the fascinating concept of "pareidolia"; Professor Shoelaces's extensive metatags; your hosts answer a listener's question about when to go physical versus when to go digital.


#420: Baby Thorin

April 3, 2019 at 8:00AM • 1 hour 7 minutes

DISCUSSED: Merlin is back on his old cans; Dan is pivoting to video; Cash stepped in paint, and kids are terrible storytellers; a book recommendation; a case for the Oxford comma, please and thank you; Dan starts asking for help with his new iMac; gross nickel–and-diming by Apple; praise for Southwest Airlines; Dan (finally) gets to finish asking for help with his new iMac; a cool new open source Mac video app; the Mac laptop keyboard problems ain't going away; Dan really likes Final Cut; Merlin fights with UPS, both on principle and as a game; Merlin thinks Dan's egg cooker rules.